The price of the motorway shuffle

20 May 2016

The price of the motorway shuffle

Statistically speaking, motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, but when accidents do happen, they frequently occur at high speeds. Those headline-making events are often fatal and thankfully very rare.

Motorway accidents can also occur at lower speeds, especially when the 'motorway shuffle' (the inexplicable cascade of brake lights ahead that appears on an apparently clear stretch of road) comes into play. Our client, Mr S, was approaching junctions 10 and 11 on the M3 motorway in the correct lane and within the speed limit when he was 'shunted' by another vehicle colliding with the rear of his car. He contacted Shoosmiths to act on his behalf in a claim for personal injury compensation following that road traffic accident.

What Shoosmiths did

After receiving instructions to act on behalf of Mr S, we sent letters of claim to the other party's representatives who accepted liability for the accident. Mr S had said he was suffering from headaches and anxiety about travelling (understandable given his recent experience) and had sustained a whiplash injury. Whiplash has gained some notoriety with many insurers maintaining that: "there's no medical diagnosis for whiplash as an injury as it’s self-reported". Despite the view that whiplash is ripe for opportunists or fraud, it is very real, diagnosable and treatable.

We arranged a medical examination for Mr S and the medical report confirmed that he had suffered whiplash injuries to his neck and lower back. Those injuries and physical symptoms accounted for his headaches and the fact that he was unable to indulge in previously enjoyed activities like playing football or basketball. Mr S subsequently received physiotherapy treatment and also underwent an MRI Scan. The final medical opinion was that Mr S should make a full recovery from his injuries in two years.

Disputing quantum

Based on that medical evidence, we valued Mr S's claim for pain, suffering and loss of amenity/enjoyment in excess of £4,100. We also sought to recover physiotherapy treatment fees, additional mileage to and from sessions, parking expenses, medication charges as well as telephone calls and postage costs within the amount of Mr S's compensation claim. Although the other side had admitted liability for the accident, they 'disputed quantum'. This is a common tactic and basically means that they disagreed with the value of the claim we submitted, maintaining it was too high for the injuries sustained and other expenses incurred. The other party offered a sum of £2,400, around half of what we valued Mr S's claim to be, and refused to increase it.

Going to court

Our response was to immediately issue court proceedings which resulted (as is often the case) in the other party's representatives increasing their initial 'final' offer. We considered that the revised sum of £2,900 proposed was still too low for the injuries Mr S had sustained in the accident, so the offer was rejected and we proceeded with the litigation. Again, as frequently happens, before the final court hearing date was even set, the other party's representatives further increased their offer. We advised Mr S to settle the matter for a total of £4,783 (general damages at £4,300 and special damages at £483) just slightly in excess of what we'd originally valued his claim at.

Case handler comments

'This case highlights the fact that the much maligned whiplash injury is very real – the symptoms were certainly very real to our client - and can easily be diagnosed and confirmed by expert medical examination. It also illustrates how being prepared to initiate the court process can help concentrate minds and eventually arrive at a fair settlement, often without the need to pursue litigation to its ultimate end.'

Client comments

At the conclusion of the claim, Mr S commented: 'Thank you so much for all your hard work and what you have achieved for me in my claim without me even having to appear in court.'

Tell us what you think

All documents should be read and used in accordance with the terms and conditions. This document is for your general information only and is not a detailed statement of the law. It is provided to you free of charge and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. If you require specific legal advice please contact our client services team on 03700 868686 or chat with us online today.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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